Ed. note: Ro Ransom is a rapper. We’ve posted him here on Pigeons & Planes. When he emailed saying he wrote an article about why Lorde is more of a rapper than most rappers, we had to see it.
By Ro Ransom
I made a tweet the other day, about how Lorde is my favorite rapper. I was with a group of my friends at the time, and we started having this discussion about Lorde, how good she is, and what she represents in the scope of modern day pop music. We talked about how different she is than the pop music we all grew up with. I’m 21, so I grew up with NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys. The difference between that and Lorde is… Lorde is damn near a rapper. She encompasses all of the characteristics. She even said fuck a real name (Ella Yelich-O’Connor), and went for the hard ass AKA.
She stands for something.
Lorde will speak her mind. But that’s not the only component of her quick tongue that makes her rapper-like. What she’s saying actually matters. She’s spoken out in favor of feminism, describing what our pop culture does to wrongfully perpetuate damaging ideas to young girls. It is 100 percent hip-hop to have a message, to be socially conscious, in one way or another, even if it isn’t as commonplace as it used to be. Not giving a fuck enough to decide to swim against the waves is some pure rapper shit.
She has no problem criticizing the media. Here’s an excerpt of a blog she wrote, about journalism in today’s day and age: “Bugs me how publications like Complex will profile interesting artists in order to sell copies/get clicks and then shit on their records — it happens to me all the time. Pitchfork and that ilk being like “Can we interview you?” after totally taking the piss out of me in a review. Have a stance on an artist and stick to it.”
Even if you don’t agree with what she’s saying, you have to admit: during a time when pop stars are so media trained that they don’t even seem human, Lorde is at least speaking her mind.
“I’m not trying to be anyone’s role model, because I’m a young person and I fuck up,” she said in the same interview. That sounds like some shit Pac would’ve said.
“I think a lot of people love to pit pop artists against each other, and act like we’re all competing, which is, you know, quite frankly bullshit” is a thing Lorde said on Good Morning America. People seem to constantly ask her how it feels to be the “Miley Cyrus killer,” or some antithesis to everything wrong in music. She’s not trying to be that, she’s just trying to be herself. “I’m not trying to be anyone’s role model, because I’m a young person and I fuck up,” she said in the same interview. That sounds like some shit Pac would’ve said.
She’s had beef.
Tyler, the Creator—in a very Tyler, the Creator move—took to Instagram to post a picture of Lorde and her boyfriend at the beach, with the caption: “Hhahahahahah.” She responded on Twitter within an hour, saying directly to @fucktyler, “Was this supposed to make me feel something?” Most actual rappers would’ve done some subtweet shit, because they’re pussy. Nope. Not Lorde.
On Selena Gomez, she quipped: “I’m a feminist, and the theme of her song is, ‘When you’re ready, come and get it from me.’ I’m sick of women being portrayed this way.” Selena Gomez said some shit back, but who cares, that was a “Control” verse. No response needed. She had similar criticisms of Lana Del Rey’s male dependency in her lyrics. In an industry full of people walking on eggshells, constantly trying to save face, its refreshing to have some Kanye-like honesty on the pop side of things.
The media tried to crucify her.
I’m a rapper. I really rap. I have a mixtape on the way called Ro Ransom is the Future. So if anyone is going to get offended by an unfair criticism of rap music, it’s me. But the way publications all over the internet tried to portray Lorde as some sort of racist enemy of hip hop was one of the most ludicrous things I had ever seen. “Royals” is not about telling rappers their content is wrong—Royals is about a girl of humble beginnings, from New Zealand, who couldn’t relate to the lifestyle she was exposed to in popular music. Songs getting taken out of context, and painted to mean something controversial that they really don’t? Sounds like Makaveli, Eminem, Lil Wayne to me. No, Lorde is not 2Pac, but she’s saying something that pushes the needle. Her words cause dialogue.
She brings vivid lyricism to the table.
As soon as it really sunk in with me that the first lyric of “Royals” was “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh / I cut my teeth on wedding rings, in the movies,” I knew I was about to hear some shit I’ve never heard before. Now that we know more about her, we know her affinity for literature and we can better appreciate her proficiency in putting words together. Another one of my favorite lyrics from her was “Buzzcut Season” (which is her alias for summertime), where she says “I remember when your head caught flame”—for that to be the first line of the song is so epic. When I listen to “400 Lux,” I really feel like she’s taking me through New Zealand, just like I feel with most of her songs. It’s done in such a poignant, colorful way that I can only really compare it to Nas’ painting pictures on Illmatic and It Was Written. She really takes you right to those places, just as Nas would.
Don’t even get me started on “Tennis Court.” That record is like Childish Gambino’s “Sweatpants” or something. I seriously wish I had made it myself. I would’ve kept the line about being a beauty queen and everything. It’s just a stream of consciousness depicting youth culture and all the attitude, good and bad, that comes along with it. Lorde didn’t cut through all these other pop artists and blow up for no reason—the potency in her words is incomparable. I mean, even the album’s title, Pure Heroine is a double entendre.
Bonus: “Glory and Gore” / “Still Sane”
These songs are meta as fuck. Pop singers usually don’t talk about their own careers, or their position in the industry on record. That’s rap shit. That’s Drake on “Lust for Life”, that’s Hov on “Dear Summer.” “Still Sane” is literally all about how she’s “little” but she’s “coming for the crown.” It’s bout how “all work and no play” keeps her “on the new shit.”
“Glory and Gore” seems to come from a place of a bit more fantasy, but in its essence, it’s still a battle rap. Eminem might not’ve literally piled five dudes in a Pinto to pull up in the Seven Mile drive-thru of McDonald’s to piledrive you; just as Lorde might not literally be a gladiator or a swordsman. But that doesn’t mean you should take her any more lightly. She said it herself: She’s in the ring and she’s coming for blood.